If you have a child, it's likely you've witnessed a debate or heated argument on social media about the direction of car seats, especially where it concerns children under the age of 2. Although there are some parents who believe it's OK to have a child under the age of 2 in a forward-facing car seat, there are other parents who argue that this practice isn't or shouldn't be legal due to safety concerns. So, is using a forward-facing car seat before two illegal?
Similarly to most laws in the United States, car seat laws varies state by state. Jessica Jermakian, senior research scientist for the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety, explained, according to Care: "States regulate how long kids should stay in child restraints and how the law should be enforced." Therefore, it's every parent's responsibility to stay updated on their state's car seat laws.
In the case of forward-facing car seats, many states mandate that children under the age of 2 have a rear-facing car seat for safety reasons. California, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Oregon, and Connecticut have laws making it illegal for children under the age of two to ride in forward-facing car seats, according to POPSUGAR. California, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Oregon passed its laws in 2017 while Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey enacted the requirement prior to 2017.
If you're wondering why this law has become more common throughout the past few years, look no further than the American Academy of Pediatrics and numerous scientific studies. In 2011, the AAP updated its policy on rear-facing car seats and officially recommended that parents keep their children in rear-facing car seats until the age of 2. The previous policy, released in 2002, advised parents to keep children in a rear-facing car seat "up to the limits of the car seat," according to the AAP.
Dr. Durbin, a lead author of the 2011 policy, said of the new recommendation, according to CNN:
A rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash, because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body.
Furthermore, medical experts have determined that "children are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are rear-facing," according to Benioff Children's Hospital.
Given all the research that says children under the age of 2 should be using rear-facing car seats, more states are considering tougher laws. Though, in 2016, Tennessee passed a bill requiring children under the age of two to ride in rear-facing car seats, the Tennessee House of Representatives recalled the approved bill just a few days after its passage. Republicans claimed that the "bill generated much concern among their constituents," although they didn't elaborate on those alleged concerns, according to USA TODAY. In the case of Wisconsin, its rear-facing car seat law failed to pass the Senate (for reasons that are unclear), despite having the support of numerous parents in the state. In September 2017, Wisconsin lawmakers introduced a new car seat bill that would require children under the age of 2 to ride in a rear-facing car seat.
One of the supporters of the bill, Bethany Olson, explained to Wisconsin Public Radio how a rear-facing car seat saved her daughter's life in a car crash. At the time of the crash, Olson's daughter was almost 2.
Olson said, according to WPR:
I actually have not ever been involved in politics. But I almost lost my daughter, and I don't want anybody to ever go through that.
Although it's not illegal in many states to have a child under the age of 2 in a forward-facing car seat, it has been proven to be a dangerous practice by countless medical professionals. Given the risks of having a young child in a forward-facing car seat, it won't be surprising if other states push for tougher laws in the years to come.
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